If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that the Thalia community has a lot of love for the great Tommy Emmanuel.
Back in 2018, you guys voted Tommy the greatest fingerstyle player of all time. At the time, I noted thatit was “Emmanuel’s completeness as a guitar player” earned him the top spot:
“He’s a technical marvel, yes, and his hybrid picking style – complete with percussive strikes and tremolo imitation – is a sight to behold. But, it’s his sheer musicality, not just his flair, that gains him points here.”
To see evidence of this sheer musicality in effect, you’ve only got to check out this incendiary performance from 2012, brought to our attention by the folks at Guitar Player:
In the footage, Emmanuel kicks off with his original Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute, “Stevie’s Blues,” before launching into an absolutely mind-bending take on Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Before clicking play, I’d consider disconnecting the phone and sending the dog/kids outside. For the next eight and a half minutes, you do not want to be disturbed.
Even though he’s covering one of the most iconic guitarists of all time (and paying tribute to another), the performance is unmistakably Emmanuel. Fluid, musical and bombastic without ever being histrionic, it’s testament to his absolute mastery of the instrument. Watching it, I’m reminded of a comment that he made during a 2019 Thalia interview when I asked him about striking that delicate balance between melodicism and showmanship:
“I believe that people who come to a show don’t want to see you coasting. They want to see you getting out on a limb and really pushing yourself. At least, that’s what I think. If I go to see an artist and he doesn’t even look like he’s trying, I feel like leaving. I want to see your heart and soul, I want to see you work. I think that’s what people in general need to see. So I’m always pushing myself out there.
But, at the same time, I’m willing to walk that line. My musical taste would tell me “I played too much in that song.” But my love of playing for people tells me “give ‘em more.” You always walk that line. Of course, there are certain songs that I play where I don’t do anything but try to play them with as much feeling as I can. That’s the right thing, I think. But, when I play a tune like “Guitar Boogie,” I play any damn thing I want and push it to the limit of where I think it should be. I think it’s exciting for people to see you stretching out and to see where you can take it. I think that’s part of entertainment, too.”
As far as seeing some heart and soul, it doesn’t come much better than that clip.
What’s your favourite Tommy Emmanuel live moment? Share your stories in the comments.